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Discover Data: If you want to be sound of mind, remain sound of body


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by Elizabeth Svoboda

Couch-potato eating habits are as unhealthy for the brain as they are for the body, says Deborah Gustafson, an epidemiologist at Göteborg University in Sweden. After surveying a group of 392 elderly Swedish adults for 18 years, she found that women who are overweight at age 70 are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. For every one-unit increase in body mass index beyond the healthy range—equivalent to seven pounds of extra weight on an average 70-year-old woman—the risk of getting Alzheimer's between the ages of 79 and 88 jumps 36 percent. Moreover, women who contract the disease have an average body mass index 3.6 units higher than those who remain healthy. (The study revealed no equivalent association among men, possibly because so few were enrolled at the beginning.) Gustafson speculates that poor cardiovascular health may predispose some overweight individuals to Alzheimer's. At any rate, the results illustrate that junk-food addiction is not just a problem of youth. "A lot of people think they don't have to worry about their weight once they get older," she says. "This should make them sit up and take notice."

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